Power of the purse

"Whoever wields the baton in the institution that controls where peoples’ taxes go should be imbued with excellent leadership qualities."


Who decides where the people's taxes go? Here, the power of the purse is vested in the House of Representatives. Sec. 24 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution is very clear that all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills or bills authorizing increase of the public debt shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments. This is the power of the purse that our Congress shares with its counterpart in the federal government of the United States. While former National Treasurer Leonor Briones and now Education Secretary once quipped that while the power of the purse here is ultimately effectively vested in the President, our Congress at least holds the purse strings.

In any event, what we want to drive at is that whoever wields the baton in the institution that controls where peoples' taxes go should be imbued with excellent leadership qualities, not the least of which is to be able to unite disparate interests and divergent personalities toward one shared goal: The public good.

The post of House Speaker to be vacated by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at noon of June 30. She said she wants to devote her time writing her memoirs—the guessing game is who will take over the helm of Congress and thus stand fourth in line in succession to the presidency.

Names bruited about in the rumor mills in the aftermath of the May 13 midterm elections have included Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. 

Lawmakers are said to be reluctant to agree to an Alvarez comeback, as quite a number of them view him with disdain for his alleged failure to unite the legislative chamber. “He has made many enemies,” a lawmaker said. Alvarez's return as the fourth highest political leader of the country is definitely out of the question.

They are wary too of Cayetano, who is perceived to be an ingrate, and one who has antagonized even political allies. Installing him as Speaker would be a disaster, the lawmaker said.

Velasco, 41, is a rising political star and shown dynamic leadership qualities. He was first elected to represent the lone congressional of Marinduque in 2010, but lost to Regina Reyes in 2013. He won in his electoral protest, claiming that Reyes was an American citizen prior to her election. 

While Velasco, a lawyer, won in the 2016 and 2019 elections, he has yet to cultivate warm relations with his colleagues to catapult him to power. He is the eldest son of Presbitero Velasco Jr., a retired magistrate of the Supreme Court. 

Romualdez, 55, comes from a prominent political clan, but he refuses to get involved in his family’s controversies, opting to work diligently to establish his own identity in business and politics.

In free-wheeling discussions recently, Romualdez said that if elected by his peers, his primary task would be to prevent any impasse on the enactment of the proposed national budget for 2020. There shouldn’t be any failure to pass it on time, he said.

Romualdez suggested a three-point program to prevent any budgetary deadlock in the future. He said the failure to pass the national budget on an election year did not only trigger an economic slowdown, but also the defeat of many administration candidates.

First, Congress must find ways to approve the proposed 2020 national budget on time. After the President submits the proposed 2020 national budget the day after he delivers his July 27 State of the Nation Address, Congress should work hard enough to pass it before Christmas.

Second, Congress should approve within one to three months a supplemental budget to restore the vetoed portions of the 2019 national budget, particularly the infrastructure projects worth P95 billion. Quite a number of the vetoed projects under the national budget were even promised by the President to their proponents, he pointed out.

Third, Congress should revisit the fund sources to support the national budget with the objective of re-aligning the savings to projects, the implementation of which has been hampered by lack of funds.

By pursuing the three-point program on budgetary concerns, Romualdez believes the national economy would recover from the slowdown triggered by the four-month delay in the enactment of the national budget. It should not happen again, he said.

Romualdez wants to push the President’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, as this would definitely to pump-prime the national economy. Pursuing the program to its logical conclusion would be his primary legislative agenda, he said.

Moreover, Romualdez said he has gone over the President’s SONAs in 2016, 2017, and 2018 with a fine-tooth comb because he believes these reflect a clear legislative agenda. He has vowed to pursue this legislative agenda should members of House of Representatives elect him as the next Speaker. 

For his part, the President has been keeping his political cards close to his chest. He is believed to be consulting lawmakers on who is best suited for the Speaker’s job. Meanwhile, lawmakers are keenly awaiting the President’s signal before making public their choice as next Speaker. “It’s a waiting game,” another lawmaker said.

We're just as eager to know who gets to sit as the next Speaker, as Congress holds not only the power of the purse, but the future of the nation as well.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Power of the purse , House of Representatives , House Speaker
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